To keep family together, Inland Empire woman chooses to stay on streets

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (KABC) -- Courtney Lee pulled a wagon behind her as she walked along 6th Street in San Bernardino in the afternoon heat. The wagon contained not only her possessions but those of her 64-year-old mother and 7-year-old son.

For the past three years, Lee and her family have been homeless after leaving a domestic violence situation.

"I have no problem going to work, I have no problem being med compliant. I just need assistance with housing," said Lee.

Lee said despite previously holding down a job in a warehouse, she was unable to afford rent. Oftentimes the family slept in their car. She's currently unemployed.

The choices and resources she says she was offered left her with an impossible choice.

"We were informed that because of my family composition being my mother and my son... us being a multigenerational family; we do not qualify for assistance together. The only options they are giving us is to separate the family."

It would have meant placing her son in foster care, her mother in a senior housing facility, and Lee in a shelter at the time. She chose to keep them together.

"There are countless people that are one paycheck, one management change of their building away from being in the same situation as I am."

California's escalating homeless crisis has created more solutions, but also more restrictions on the unhoused. A study conducted by the Thomas and Dorothy Leavy Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University shows most LA County residents see the problem worsening.

"The prevalence of seeing encampments, seeing individuals living on the sidewalks, in the tents, in the parks - it's something that is much more visible," said Brianne Gilbert with Loyola Marymount University.

The study of Los Angeles County residents found a majority of those surveyed supported more short-term housing as opposed to long-term housing solutions. In addition, residents backed clearing out encampments without regard to available shelter beds.

"There is consensus that short-term housing is the better use of existing funds and there is also a sense there is less patience with encampments," said Gilbert.

The survey concludes LA County residents have grown impatient for a solution to homelessness. But for those like Lee wading through the tide of resources and restrictions is a daily test of patience.

"I understand if people have no compassion for me as a 34-year-old woman and my mother as a 64-year-old, but my son deserves better," said Lee. "My child deserved to know where he is going to sleep at night, and have a home-cooked meal."

Lee no longer has a car so tonight she, her mother and son plan to sleep in a tent after using up their last hotel voucher for the year.

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